In hockey-crazed Toronto, bruising defenseman Luke Schenn was regarded as a flop, a No. 1 draft pick who never lived up to his expectations.
Now, the slate is clean.
“Sometimes, it’s nice to get a fresh start,” Schenn said after his first informal practice with his new Flyers teammates in Voorhees on Wednesday. “A change of scenery a little bit can maybe work out for the better. I’m excited to be here, and being familiar with some of the guys can only be a positive.”
Schenn, acquired in the June deal that sent winger James van Riemsdyk to the Maple Leafs, is reunited with his brother, Brayden, who is expected to play on the Flyers’ second line.
Brayden Schenn is currently with the AHL Adirondack Phantoms and he cannot join the Flyers until the collective bargaining agreement is ratified. That will probably happen Saturday, with training camps expected to start Sunday.
“We always dreamed about playing together, but we thought if it was a possibility, it would probably happen later on in our careers, down the road,” said Luke Schenn, a 6-foot-2, 229-pounder who led NHL defensemen with 270 hits last season. “We didn't expect it to happen this soon. For us to come together this early on in our careers it's pretty exciting for us and our family.”
Schenn said he and his brother have not been teammates since “our dad coached us when we were 7 or 8 years old, So it’s been a long time. We always followed each other and pushed each other in the summers, and trained together. But I never had the chance to play with him, and doing it, especially in the NHL, it's going to be unbelievable.”
Schenn, 23, brings a right-handed shot and some much-needed physicality that the Flyers lost when Chris Pronger suffered a concussion last season that may have ended his career. If all the defensemen are healthy, Schenn will probably start the season on the third pairing, but he clearly has the ability to climb the charts.
If healthy, the Flyers top four defensemen figure to be Braydon Coburn, Nick Grossmann, Kimmo Timonen and Andrej Meszaros.
Meszaros had off-season Achilles surgery and it is not known if he will be ready for the Jan. 19 opener.
Schenn, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, will have a six-day training camp to build some chemistry with a defensive partner. He may be matched with Bruno Gervais, an offensive-minded defenseman. Gervais, signed as a free agent in the off-season, also made his first appearance with the team on Wednesday.
During the 113-day lockout, Luke Schenn trained in Kelowna, British Columbia, with about a dozen NHL players and skated with the junior team, the Kelowna Rockets. He has been skating four or five days a week since early August.
“It feels like a long time since the trade happened and feels awesome to finally be here,” Schenn said. “I couldn’t be more excited…..I’m still young, so I still feel like I have a lot of work and (professional) growing to do.”
Schenn said he wasn’t taking a spot for granted.
“You have to earn your ice time here, obviously," he said. "….I definitely have to work for it, but I'm looking forward to the new opportunity here and a fresh start. I can’t wait to get it going.”
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.